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Delirium - Dolce Acqua CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.82 | 112 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars I was 11 years old when, in the early spring of 1972, Delirium appeared at one of Italy's best-known musical events, the Festival of Sanremo. At the time, even if the festival had always been largely devoted to traditional Italian musica leggera (easy listening), it still offered some scope for more innovative acts. Delirium's choice of song , "Jesahel", became an instant hit, though it didn't really fit the bill of the kind of music Sanremo generally stood for. Though not a masterpiece by any means, the song was infectious in an odd kind of way... To one who, like me, even at an early age had never been able to stand the unrelenting dominance of the so-called Italian melody, the song sounded like something new, fresh and intriguing. It might have been the chorus, or the presence of a flute played in a more aggressive way, or Ivano Fossati's distinctly untraditional vocal style... Well, my 11-year-old self was truly and well hooked, and wanted more. This is how I got my mother to buy me what was to be my very first prog album...

"Dolce acqua" ("Sweet Water" in English, and also the name of a town in the band's native region of Liguria) was released in 1971, after the band had won a couple of prestigious musical awards. Even as young as I was, I still remember the original liner notes, written by a well-known music journalist, where Delirium were compared to the likes of Colosseum and Blood, Sweat & Tears. I knew practically nothing of either band, but I understood that Delirium were trying to do something that went beyond that Italian musical tradition which I had always loathed. Everything about them felt different... The colourful artwork, hippyish look and intriguing song titles, their use of instruments that sounded so exotic to a naive, pre-teen girl. When I finally got the album and gave it the first spin, I was not disappointed. It was the beginning of my love affair with progressive rock - first the Italian variety, then, a few years later, the big English groups.

Fast forward some 35 years... After what felt like a lifetime, I got the chance to listen to "Dolce acqua" again. In the spring of 2007, my youth was well behind me, and the album I had never really forgotten resurfaced in my life again, when the man of my dreams, whom I had met by a mere chance thanks to our mutual love of prog rock, finally got hold of a copy of the album. We were both astonished at how good it sounded... still, after all those years. Listening to it with the ears of an adult person, I was swept back to that time in my life when I realised my musical tastes were never going to be conventional. Though "Dolce acqua" may not be as musically or lyrically accomplished as Delirium's undisputed masterpiece, their third album, it is one of the best debuts in prog - a true rough diamond, unpolished yet full of emotional impact.

Since the preceding reviewers have perfectly illustrated the musical content of the album, I'll skip a track-by-track analysis. As others have pointed out, "Dolce acqua" combines such diverse influences as jazz, blues and prog with more mainstream sensibilities. However, Delirium's overall sound is light years away from the definitely more melodic approach of historic Italian bands such as Dik Dik or I Pooh. There are no love songs on the album, which was in itself a groundbreaking event in the country where 'love' rhymes with 'heart'. The songs are instead structured as a suite in eight movements, each of them dedicated to a particular feeling or emotion - interestingly, love not is not included. One of the tracks, "Johnnie Sayre", contains the almost obligatory homage to an American poet who had become a cult item in the Italy of the late Sixties and early Seventies, Edgar Lee Masters of "Spoon River Anthology" fame (legendary singer-songwriter Fabrizio De André, hailing, like Delirium and Christopher Columbus, from the harbour city of Genoa, had also dedicated one of his first albums to "Spoon River"). Incidentally, "Jesahel" did not feature on the original version on the album, since at the time it had only been released as a single.

Ivano Fossati's low, dark, intensely expressive voice is probably the most noteworthy element of "Dolce acqua", together with his flute playing, in turn melodic and aggressive, perhaps not highly technical, but essential to the whole texture of the music. His vocals shine throughout the album, wistful and almost plaintive in the acoustic intro "Preludio", forceful in "Movimento I (Egoismo)", sad and mournful in "Johnnie Sayre", warm and richly emotional in the title-track. The overall sound of the album veers more towards the acoustic than the electric, which anchors it to the Italian tradition without detracting from its aspirations to be something different.

Though "Dolce acqua" has been called naive and amateurish by some, it does possess an endearing quality which makes it worthwhile even to ears accustomed to more sophisticated fare. The band had indeed potential in spades: unfortunately, though, they never became as successful as some of their contemporaries did, and split in 1974 - only to reform in 2007 for an excellent live album. As to Fossati, after leaving Delirium he embarked on a successful career as a singer-songwriter. Though I have a lot of respect for what he's been doing ever since, I can't help regretting that he didn't stick to prog - in my opinion, he had the potential to become one of the best vocalists of the Seventies, bar none.

In spite of my sentimental attachment to the album, I will hold the fifth star because it can't really be considered a masterpiece in the way, for instance, "Darwin" or "Storia di un minuto" are. However, I would recommend it very highly to everyone interested in exploring some of the lesser-known facets of RPI - as well as hearing some great, soulful, unconventional singing. On a more personal note, it is very likely that, without this album, I would have never got into prog, and therefore never met the man who has changed my life completely. Because of this, "Dolce acqua" will always hold a special place in my heart.

Raff | 4/5 |


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